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For Matthew Ritchie, it’s playtime at the ICA

Late last week, as the clatter and crunch of construction in front of the Institute of Contemporary Art seeped into the building, two artists, a couple of staffers, and I gathered in the lobby to try out a new interactive sound installation.

A grid had been mapped in blue on the floor, alongside a wheeling wall painting by Matthew Ritchie, which stretched around the corner onto the window bay looking out on the construction site. Wall painting and sound installation together are called “Remanence/Remonstrance.”

If the racket outside punctuated the scene with a chaotic rumble, Ritchie’s diagrammatic mural, similar to the public art piece he mounted last September in Dewey Square, mixes chaotic energy with elegance and intention. The Dewey Square mural and the lobby installation are components of the British-born, New York-based artist’s 18-month artist residency at the ICA.

I was the first to step on the grid. A low, pleasing clarinet note filled the lobby, and began repeating. I stepped to another square, and a soothing, simple riff, also on clarinet, played over the repeating note. As others joined me, a clarinet chorus immersed us, driving away the noise outside. As the sounds multiplied, they built into rippling rhythms, and then blocks of chords...

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